How to Make Danish Rye Bread [The Easiest Recipe]

Published Categorized as Sourdough Bread Recipes

Rye bread is a staple in Danish cuisine, known for its distinct flavor and nutritional benefits. However, many people struggle to recreate this classic bread at home, often ending up with dense, dry loaves that lack the characteristic taste and texture. In this article, we’ll guide you how to make Danish rye bread, sharing insider tips and techniques that will help you achieve the perfect loaf every time. Whether you’re a seasoned baker or a novice, you’ll discover the secrets to mastering this wholesome and delicious bread, elevating your baking skills to new heights.

How to make danish rye bread

Table of Contents

What is Danish Rye Bread?

A Staple in Danish Cuisine

Danish rye bread, known as rugbrød, is a beloved staple in Danish cuisine. This hearty bread has been a part of the Danish diet for centuries, and it continues to be a favorite among locals and food enthusiasts alike. Its unique characteristics, such as its dense texture and rich flavor, set it apart from other bread varieties.

Unique Characteristics and Flavor

What makes Danish rye bread so special? For starters, it’s made with whole grain rye, which gives it a distinctive dark color and a robust, slightly tangy taste. The bread undergoes a slow sourdough fermentation process, which not only enhances its flavor but also improves its digestibility and nutritional value.

Different from Other Rye Breads

While rye bread is enjoyed in many parts of the world, Danish rye bread stands out due to its specific preparation methods and ingredients. Unlike some other rye breads that may include a mix of wheat and rye flours, traditional Danish rugbrød is made almost entirely with whole grain rye. This results in a denser, more compact loaf that is perfect for open-faced sandwiches, known as smørrebrød.


To make authentic Danish rye bread, gather these key ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups whole grain rye flour, preferably organic
  • 1 cup mature sourdough starter
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Optional add-ins:
    • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
    • 1/4 cup flaxseeds
    • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
    • 1/4 cup cracked rye or wheat grains

Remember, the quality of your ingredients will greatly impact the flavor and texture of your final loaf. Choose the best whole grain rye flour you can find, and make sure your sourdough starter is active and bubbly before beginning the bread-making process.

Feel free to adjust the quantities of the optional seeds and grains to suit your taste preferences, or omit them altogether for a simpler loaf. The key components for a true Danish rye bread are the rye flour, sourdough starter, water, and salt.

Equipment Needed

Before you dive into baking your own delicious Danish rye bread, let’s make sure you have all the necessary tools. While you don’t need a professional kitchen setup, having the right equipment can make your bread-making experience a breeze.

Baking Tools

First and foremost, you’ll need a sturdy mixing bowl to combine your ingredients. A large wooden spoon or a dough whisk will come in handy for stirring the dense rye dough. You’ll also want to have measuring cups and spoons on hand to ensure you’re using the correct amounts of each ingredient.

Loaf Pan

To shape your Danish rye bread, you’ll need a loaf pan. Choose a pan that’s the right size for your recipe – typically, a 9×5 inch loaf pan works well. If you want to get fancy, you can opt for a traditional Danish rye bread pan, which is longer and narrower than a standard loaf pan.

Oven Essentials

Of course, you can’t bake bread without an oven! Make sure your oven is properly calibrated and can maintain a consistent temperature. A baking stone or a cast iron pan placed in the bottom of the oven can help create a steamy environment, which is essential for achieving a crispy crust on your rye bread.

Preparation Steps

Step-by-Step Guide to Making the Dough

Creating the perfect Danish rye bread dough is all about technique and patience. Start by combining your ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Use a wooden spoon or your hands to mix everything together until a shaggy, sticky dough forms. Don’t worry if it seems a bit messy at first – that’s totally normal!

Next, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and start kneading. Use the heel of your hand to push the dough away from you, then fold it back over itself. Give it a quarter turn and repeat. Keep kneading for about 5-10 minutes, or until the dough feels smooth and elastic.

Here’s a pro tip: if the dough feels too sticky to handle, wet your hands with a little water. This will help prevent the dough from sticking to your fingers and make the kneading process a breeze.

Once your dough is nice and smooth, shape it into a ball and place it back in the mixing bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes. This resting period allows the gluten to relax, making the dough easier to shape later on.

Baking Process

Oven Settings and Baking Trays

Now that your Danish rye bread dough is ready, it’s time to get baking! Preheat your oven to 475°F (245°C) and place a baking tray filled with water on the bottom rack. This creates steam, which helps develop a beautiful, crispy crust on your loaf.

Baking Techniques for the Perfect Loaf

Gently transfer your shaped dough onto a greased or lined baking sheet. Using a sharp knife or razor blade, make a few diagonal slashes across the top of the loaf. This allows the bread to expand during baking without cracking or tearing.

Pop your loaf into the hot oven and bake for about 45-55 minutes. Keep an eye on it – you’ll know it’s done when the crust is dark brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Achieving a Crispy Crust

For an extra crispy crust, try this pro tip: about 5 minutes before your bread is done baking, remove the tray of water from the oven. This allows any remaining moisture to evaporate, resulting in a delightfully crunchy exterior.

Once your Danish rye bread is baked to perfection, remove it from the oven and let it cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. Trust me, the wait is worth it – cutting into a hot loaf can result in a gummy texture.

Post-Baking Steps

Cooling Your Loaf

Once your Danish rye bread emerges from the oven, it’s tempting to dive right in and start slicing. But hold your horses! Letting your loaf cool completely on a wire rack is crucial for achieving the perfect texture. If you cut into it too soon, you risk ending up with a gummy, undercooked center. Patience is key here, folks.

Slicing Techniques

When your bread has cooled and you’re ready to slice, reach for a sharp, serrated bread knife. This will help you get clean, even slices without squishing your beautiful loaf. For the best results, place your bread on a cutting board and use a gentle sawing motion to slice. Aim for slices that are about 1/2 inch thick – perfect for piling high with your favorite toppings.

Storing Your Rye Bread

If you’re lucky enough to have leftover Danish rye bread (and let’s be real, that’s a big if), you’ll want to store it properly to keep it fresh. Wrap your loaf tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, or place it in an airtight container. It should keep at room temperature for 3-4 days, or you can freeze it for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to enjoy a slice, simply thaw it at room temperature or pop it in the toaster for a quick reheat.

Common Mistakes

When you start making Danish rye bread, it’s easy to make a few mistakes. But don’t worry – we’re here to help! Let’s talk about some common issues and how to fix them, so you can bake a yummy loaf every time.

Bread Texture Problems

One of the most annoying things is when your rye bread turns out too dense, gummy, or dry. This usually happens when you use too much or too little water in your dough. The trick is to find the right balance – a dough that’s moist but not too sticky. If your dough feels dry, add a little water at a time until it feels right. If it’s too wet, add a bit more rye flour until you get the perfect texture.

Sourdough Starter Troubles

Your sourdough starter is super important for making Danish rye bread. If it’s not bubbly and active, your bread won’t rise the way it should. Make sure you feed your starter often (at least once a week) and let it double in size before you use it in your dough. If your starter looks tired or smells weird, try feeding it with some fresh flour and water to perk it up.

Overbaking Woes

Rye bread can go from just right to dry and crumbly really fast. To avoid this, keep a close eye on your loaf during the last 10-15 minutes of baking. If it’s getting too brown, cover it with foil so it doesn’t burn. And remember – it’s better to underbake your rye bread a little than to overbake it. You can always put it back in the oven for a couple more minutes if you need to.

Serving Suggestions

Traditional and Modern Toppings

Now that you’ve mastered the art of baking Danish rye bread, it’s time to get creative with your toppings! Traditionally, this hearty bread is served with a generous smear of creamy butter and topped with smoked salmon for a classic Nordic flavor combo. But don’t be afraid to mix things up and try some modern twists.

Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner Ideas

Danish rye bread is incredibly versatile and can be enjoyed at any meal. For breakfast, try topping a slice with mashed avocado, a poached egg, and a sprinkle of everything bagel seasoning. At lunchtime, pile on some turkey, Swiss cheese, and tangy Dijon mustard for a satisfying sandwich. And for dinner, use your rye bread as a base for an open-faced meatball sub – just add marinara sauce and melted mozzarella.

Snack Time Inspiration

When the midday munchies hit, reach for a slice of Danish rye bread. Spread on some hummus and top with sliced cucumbers and cherry tomatoes for a healthy snack that’ll keep you going until dinner. Or, satisfy your sweet tooth by topping a slice with almond butter, sliced bananas, and a drizzle of honey.

Wrap Up

Danish rye bread, or rugbrød, is a cherished staple in Danish cuisine that you can now make at home. By following the steps outlined in this article and using quality ingredients, you’ll be able to create authentic, flavorful loaves. Embrace the process, learn from any mistakes, and let your creativity shine through with various toppings. Soon, you’ll master the art of baking rugbrød and become a true aficionado of this hearty, delicious bread.

How to Make Danish Rye Bread: FAQs

What is Rugbrød made of?

Rugbrød, a traditional Danish rye bread, is made primarily from rye flour, which gives it a dense texture and distinctive flavor. Other ingredients include water, salt, and sourdough starter for leavening. Some recipes may also include small amounts of wheat flour, seeds (like sunflower or pumpkin), or cracked rye for added texture and flavor.

What is Danish bread made of?

Danish bread, also known as Rugbrød, is a type of rye bread that is a staple in Danish cuisine. It is made from a combination of rye flour, water, salt, and sourdough starter. The bread is characterized by its dense texture, dark color, and slightly sour taste. Some variations may include small amounts of wheat flour or added seeds for texture and flavor.

What do you eat with Rugbrød?

Rugbrød is a versatile bread that pairs well with a variety of toppings. Some popular options include:
Butter and cheese
Cured meats, such as ham, salami, or liver pâté
Smoked fish, like salmon or herring
Pickled vegetables, such as cucumbers or beets
Jam or honey for a sweet touch Rugbrød is often served as open-faced sandwiches, known as smørrebrød.

By Natasha Krajnc

Hi! My name is Natasha and I'm specialized in home sourdough bread baking and currently based in Slovakia - a very small country in Central Europe. My bread baking story began in 2011 when I decided to give up commercial yeast. I felt tired all the time (especially after eating bread and other foods made with yeast), I wasn’t motivated to do anything, had trouble concentrating throughout the day, my abdomen was bloated and I was like a trumpet on steroids – basically, I was quite a wreck. I was a big bread lover (and still am) and having to stop eating bread was quite hard at that time but I felt I was on a right way to give my body a chance to heal itself.

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